Intersectional analysis shows the largest pay gaps in HE are for Black men and women

22 November 2018

A new report, investigating the pay differences between ethnic minority staff and their white counterparts in higher education alongside gender, has been published by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). Inspired by the interest shown in gender pay gap reporting and the prospect of ethnicity pay gap reporting, the key findings include clear evidence that pay 'penalties'* for ethnic minorities are significant, with Black men and Black women earning the least on average relative to White men. Our research finds overall that the pay penalty experienced by ethnic minority women in the sector is much more likely to be due to factors associated with their ethnicity than their gender.

The effect of a combination of two or more protected characteristics on, for example, labour market outcomes is referred to as 'intersectionality'; a concept that has been incorporated as a principle of the HE sector"s Athena SWAN Charter in 2015**. Caught at the crossroads? An intersectional approach to gender and ethnicity pay gaps in higher education also found that there is no evidence of a compounded pay gap for Black women with no pay gap between Black men and Black women. However, there is a significant pay gap between Asian men and women which suggests an intersectional or compounded pay penalty here due to factors associated with both ethnicity and gender.

The research also shows that the findings relating to Black men and Black women hold even when education levels and some demographic and institutional variables are accounted for.

The first phase of the research involved a review of the unadjusted pay distributions for each group. In the second phase UCEA researchers carried out a regression analysis to understand systematic pay differences while also examining job segregation and the impact of nationality on these pay differentials. The situation for the whole staff population is considered in the report as well as that for the academic staff and professional services staff groups.

Viola Salvestrini, UCEA Researcher and report author said:

“There are clear differences in labour market outcomes for different ethnic groups in the HE sector with men and women from Black ethnicities showing significant pay penalties relative to White men. These penalties remain even when accounting for level of education and demographic variables. While the sector's formidable work to improve women's careers should be noted, more attention is required for interventions to further improve the ethnic diversity of recruitment pools and actively address barriers to progression that are more likely to affect ethnic minorities."

UCEA's Head of Research and fellow report author Laurence Hopkins added:
“Our analysis demonstrates the complexity of pay differences within the sector and highlights the importance of considering intersectionality rather than simply looking at ethnicity and gender pay gaps in isolation. With the likelihood of ethnicity pay gap reporting on the horizon, this report shows that calculating a broad 'BME' pay gap on its own will hide significant differences between different ethnic minority groups as well as differences within ethnic groups by nationality and gender."

* The term pay penalty in the report is used to describe the pay gaps that remain after taking into account observable characteristics that influence earnings. This term is distinct from a pay gap, denoting the difference in the average pay of two groups as a proportion of one of those groups, and sex/racial discrimination, the latter of which refers to differential treatment solely related to an individual's ethnicity, skin colour, nationality or citizenship.


For further information: Please contact Andy Fryer, Head of Communications and Membership ( or Marc Whittaker, Communications and Events Manager ( For report details please contact Laurence Hopkins, Head of Research ( or Viola Salvestrini, UCEA Researcher ( 

Notes to Editor

Caught at the crossroads? An intersectional approach to gender and ethnicity pay gaps in higher education
More information and infographics relating to the sector's Gender pay gap can be found in the Gender pay gap toolkit web pages
There are currently 48 HEIs that are working with the Race Equality Charter with ten award holders